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their kindnesses to the exigences of the times ! Aided by their bounty, I have passed with a glad heart, from day to day, into the habitations of the sick, and sorrowful, and destitute ; and have sent gladness into many hearts, which I found ready to sink under fear, and care, and trouble. -I now rejoice that no extraordinary public measures were taken, that no artificial and impolitic means were adopted, for imparting a temporary relief, the future evil consequences of which would probably have fat overbalanced any immediate good, of which they might have been productive. The poor were thrown upon the sympathy of the community, or of benevolent individuals; and extraordinary demands upon benevolence have called forth extraordinary exercises of it.
In this connexion, permit me to say a word for the cause of that charity, for which there is still an extraordinary demand, and without which, even through the summer and autumn, many must greatly suffer. If there shall be no increase of demand for their services, the ab. solute necessities of the poor must be as great, for months to come, as they were in the winter, with the exception only of fuel. I leave these wants to be imagined by those, to whom I must look for assistance in relieving them. And, if I have made myself intelligible in the preceding statements, it will not be difficult for any one to conceive of them.
The question, what shall be the character and condition of the poor in a community, or country, depends not more upon themselves, than upon those who belong to the more favored classes. Their characters are principally formed, and their conditions are determined, by the estimation in which they are held, by the examples which they witness, and by the treatment they receive. It is indeed wonderful, that this very simple truth is not more generally understood. I take it for granted, indeed, that it is not very commonly understood ; for if it were, it seems impossible that it should be disregarded by so great a number. Is it not because the poor of the countries of Europe have been left, as a caste, to live and multiply in unpitied ignorance, and want, and degradation, that they have been, and are, the debased, and knavish, and dangerous race, which we now know them to be ? I am aware of the vast amount of poor rates in England and Ireland, and of the millions appropriated for the support of paupers on the continent. But is this a provision, which is worthy of the name of charity? Is it not wholly a political expedient ? Is there any moral principle that is even concerned in it? Might not the same measures be extended indefinitely, and the poor still remain in no degree improved in condition, or character? Why have so many of those whom God has favored with abundance been so slow to learn, that this class of our fellow-beings have a nature precisely like our own; and that, if they are to be advanced, if they are to be saved from moral evil, and made good and happy, it must be by means similar to those, by which those in more favored conditions are to be made good and happy? Are they not children of the same Father, and members of the same family, with ourselves? Have they not the same natural rights, and natural wants ? And are not their souls as precious in the sight of God as ours? are to be collected in our cities, and are to live there with little or no employment; if, with their increase of numbers, they are to be confirmed in habits of idleness, and are to be compelled to such expedients as they can adopt for self-support, or for relief from the weariness of indolence; and if they are to be exposed to all the evils of vicious association, and vicious indulgence, and to feel that hopeless poverty is their fixed condition ; then, in
deed, we shall not have to pass into Europe, to know to what debasement, and misery, and crime, multitudes may be brought by ignorance and want. Thanks be to God, that we have thus far been preserved from these evils, to any extent like that to which they exist in other countries. But is there no ground for the apprehension, that poverty may be with us, what it is in other lands? It is time that we were alive to the importance of this inquiry; for if we are to be saved from these dangers and sufferings, we must be aware of our exposure to them. Let the poor, then, be the objects of an active, and a christian interest among us. They need it for themselves. They need it for their children. They must be brought into a connexion, into which they have yet been very partially brought, with those whom they consider as above them. And they must be assisted, and encouraged in virtue, by' examples of virtue which they will feel it to be their honor, and happiness to imitate. I know of no means, by which so much
may be done for the poor, to redeem them from evil, to improve their condition and character, to diminish taxes for their support, and thus to secure property, and life, and the greatest amount of happiness in society, as by strengthening and extending christian sentiments and habits in the more favored classes ; by a closer approximation of the rich, in their feelings, and habits, and manners, to the standard of the gospel.
The trial through which this community is now passing, is one of deep and solemn interest. A season of unusually rapid, and widely extended prosperity, in which luxury, and extravagance, and their concomitant vices obtained a proportionally fearful growth among us, has been followed by a succession of checks and embarrassments in the great departments of business, and of disappointments and reverses, the distressing influences of
which are felt through all the classes of society. In this state of things, it surely becomes all of us who are interested in the well being of the society in which we live, even if we regard political considerations, and personal security alone, to inquire, what is our duty in reference to this amount of want and suffering ? Above all, the time is favorable, would that it might be seized with an earnestness proportioned to the greatness of the object, for the inquiry, how is our country to be saved from the pauperism, the vices, the slavery, and the widely spreading corruptions and misery, which we see in every other country of the civilized world ? Is there in our constitutions of government, or in our laws, or can there be in any merely political, or legal provisions, any adequate power for protection against these evils? I think not. Nor, till we look beyond them, and feel to an extent yet scarcely thought of, our individual responsibility in the cause, do I believe that any strong barrier can be raised against the tendencies, in our society, to all the evils, and dangers, and distresses, which are at this very day weighing, as we well know, as an incubus upon other lands. Suppose, then, that our present embarrassments are to continue for a few years longer; that poverty is to increase, and to be extended; and that prevailing sentiments, and tastes, and indulgences, among those who are in what is called the higher classes, are also to go on in the course in which they now are. What, even within a few years, will be the probable condition of society
Who can indulge the anticipation, but with very painful apprehensions? Or, suppose even, that the tide on which we are now borne along will soon turn, and that we shall ere long be as prosperous as we have been, and that there will yet be full employment for the poor. Will mere prosperity be to us for security against crime,
misrule, and all its consequences ? I have no strong inclination to look upon what is called the dark side of human nature, or of the probabilities of life. But when I see whạt is actually suffered by multitudes who are near to us, from poverty; when I consider what an amount of poverty is springing from vice, and what an amount of vice is growing out of poverty; when I witness the degradation, and as I have also witnessed, the recklessness, of that which is felt to be disregarded want; and when I remember what I have seen of poverty in England, and what I have read of it throughout Europe, I cannot but strongly feel the immense interest of the inquiry, we to be saved from the crime and misery of an overwhelming pauperism? What security have we even of our political institutions, if the poor among us shall become, in numbers, and characters, and condition, what the poor are in the older countries of the world ?
The reverses we have suffered, and are suffering, may, and but by our own fault will, be salutary in their consequences. We in truth needed them, for we were acquiring a plethoric, instead of a healthy growth, and were approaching a premature decay, under the very circumstances in which we imagined that we had already attained to national manhood. And good has actually been produced by these reverses. There is less now, than there was twenty and thirty years ago, of luxury and extravagance among us. But do they not still exist to a very reprehensible extent? Are not many living beyond their means, and is there not a great amount of expenditure for folly and sin ? I know that extravagance and luxury are relative terms, and I am aware of the difficulty of making a personal application of them to the case of others. But should not every one, in view of the sufferings around him, seriously bring home the inquiry to